Things to Do in Silver City New Mexico
Generous views of mountains, grasslands and the deep turquoise blue sky can be seen on quiet, winding touring roads. The area’s scenic byways offer the roads less-traveled that lead to the 3.3 million acres of Gila National Forest, offering destinations such as the City of Rocks State Park and both of area’s national monuments – the Gila Cliff Dwellings and Fort Bayard. While looking over this beauty and serenity, you’ll find the time and inclination to stop, explore and connect with nature.
Lake Roberts is in northeast Grant County, near the intersection of New Mexico Highway 15 and Highway 35. It is close to the Gila Cliff Dwellings and the community of Lake Roberts.
BEAR CANYON LAKE
An easy drive from many communities in Grant County, including Silver City, Hurley, Bayard and Santa Clara, Baer Canyon Lake is a popular destination for fishing, picnics, bird watching and more.
This man-made lake is a great lunch stop for drivers taking the Trail of the Mountain Spirits National Scenic Byway just off Highway 35. While easily passable by almost all vehicles, access to the lake is via a short gravel road that rises steeply. Drivers with long trailers or heavy vehicles should investigate the road’s condition before their visit.
BILL EVANS LAKE
Located along Highway 180 in the community of Riverside a road sign identifies the paved road to take to Bill Evans Lake.
The lake is a great place all year to watch birds and wildlife, both trout and warm water fish species are suited to the lake.
SILVER CITY OPEN LAKES/ BOSTON HILL TRAILS
Sites on Silver City’s rugged Boston Hill immediately recall the town’s historic era of hard-rock mining for copper, silver and other precious metals with names like “Adonis Pits,” “Luck Separation Mill” and the “King Bolt Pit.” Today, these destinations have been turned into hiking destinations for one of town’s large green breaks, the Boston Hill Open Space Trail System.
Approximately five miles from Glenwood is the Catwalk National Scenic Trail, located just at the end of Highway 174, also known as Catwalk Road.
The Catwalk National Scenic Trail offers a fantastic glimpse into the geologic and historic foundations of the region. As a result of cataclysmic volcanic actions, the area now offers a beautiful picnic spot right next to Whitewater Creek, a challenging one-mile trail along the historic 1890s mining waterway. This is a sense of place that creates images of an earlier time.
Referring to the original plank-board walkway placed atop the steel pipe used to bring water to the ore processing plant, The Catwalk ruins can still be seen near the parking area. While most of the pipe is now gone, much of the current all-access trail follows this original route which winds right through the center of the creek and perched safely a dozen feet above the creek. Just keep an eye out for trout cruising the waters below.
CITY OF ROCKS STATE PARK
City of Rocks State Park, between Silver City and Deming, New Mexico, lies in the Mimbres Valley of the Chihuahuan Desert.
The rock formations, formed of volcanic ash welded together about 35 million years ago, have changed in form over the years, due to wind and rain. The monolithic formations to many seem like buildings, homes and chimneys, with the paths through them being the streets of the “city.”
Campers can take advantage of an RV park or choose among the 62 campsites scattered throughout the park. Activities include hiking, birding, photography and bicycling.
A Visitor Center has interpretive exhibits and a botanical garden. The dark skies of New Mexico’s southwest corner lend themselves to star gazing by the amateur and professional alike. The first astronomical observatory established by New Mexico State Parks lies within City of Rocks State Park. Periodic star parties are a feature of the park.
Plant life includes desert flora, such as yucca, agave, cacti and ocotillo. Among the rocks grow Emory and gray oaks. Making their home in the park are mule deer, roadrunners, javelinas, cactus wrens, diamondback rattlesnakes, ground squirrels, coyotes and jackrabbits.
Until about 1200 A.D., Mimbres Indians roamed the area and arrowheads and pottery sherds have been found. The park also lies within the traditional homeland of the Chiricahua and Warm Springs Apache.
The first explorers, the Spanish, discovered copper, which by the 1800s was being developed by Spaniards and newer Anglo settlers, and being loaded from the nearby Santa Rita Mine and transported to Chihuahua, Mexico.
For more information and maps, visit http://www.emnrd.state.nm.us/index.html.
THE GILA CLIFF DWELLINGS NATIONAL MONUMENT
Grant County, New Mexico, is the gateway to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, which lies about two hours north of Silver City.
The Mogollon people built the pueblo-type dwellings set in caves almost 800 years ago. Five sets of caves and dwellings lie in Cliff Dweller Canyon in the Gila Wilderness of the Gila National Forest.
The canyon is deep and narrow and the terrain steep and rugged. A trail leads to the dwellings, which can be seen on the cliff side from along the trail.
Most of the wood seen in the dwellings is the wood originally put in by the inhabitants during the 13th century.
Bring hat, sunscreen and plenty of water for your trek. Because the altitude ranges from about 5,700-6,000 feet in the immediate vicinity of the dwellings, be prepared. The rainy months are July and August, when almost-daily afternoon thunderstorms are the norm. Water can pour down the canyon after storms.
Large animals include elk and mule deer, which are sometimes seen. Mountain lions and black bear also live there, but are rarely seen by visitors. Coyotes may be heard at night. Although wolves live in the vicinity the chance of seeing one is rare. The most common birds around the monument are vultures, ravens, crows, hawks, hummingbirds and various songbirds.
The area is forested with ponderosa pine, Gambel’s oak, Douglas fir, New Mexico juniper, piñon pine and alligator juniper, among others.
The Gila Cliff Dwellings, Gila Visitor Center and Gila Cliff Dwellings Trailhead Contact Station are open every day of the year, including all holidays.
For more information, visit http://www.nps.gov/gicl/index.htm.
GOMEZ PEAK TRAIL SYSTEM
Located just five miles north of Downtown Silver City, just inside the boundaries of the Gila National Forest, near Little Walnut Picnic Area, is the Gomez Peak Trail System. Over 11 miles of non-motorized trail running through the forested stands of pinyon, juniper, oak and ponderosa pine are suitable for hiking, mountain biking, birding, trail running and horseback riding. Elevations reach between 6,200 feet at the Gomez Peak Trailhead to over 7,400 feet at the top of Eighty Mountain, where spectacular views can be seen along the Continental Divide, looking south across the town of Silver City, west toward the Arizona border, north into the snowcapped peaks of the Mogollon Mountains and eastward into the Mimbres Valley and Black Range.
Fort Bayard, just off U.S. 180 East out of Silver City, was established in 1866 to protect settlers, ranchers, travelers and miners from Apache raids. After the Indian wars, the fort became respite for soldiers recovering from war.
The fort was home to Native American Scouts, Buffalo Soldiers and Anglo troops, following the Civil War.
When it was discovered that the high, dry climate proved beneficial to those suffering from tuberculosis, soldiers were treated there, just as the fort was being decommissioned in 1899. Many recovered and stayed in the area to become productive and important citizens of Silver City and Grant County.
Fort Bayard is also home to one of only two national cemeteries in New Mexico. Several Medal of Honor winners are buried at the site.
MOGOLLON GHOST TOWN
A scenic nine-mile tour can be seen from Glenwood to Mogollon, but this hour or longer trip should never be taken in the dark or in poor weather conditions. Highway 159 may be closed above or below Mogollon in the winter, so check driving conditions beforehand in Glenwood. While paved as far as Mogollon, the road is frequently one lane and winds tightly through the mountains.
However, this drive winds through the high desert of Grant and neighboring Catron counties and includes a number of spectacular views. Bands of mountain bighorn sheep may sometimes be seen on the cliffs over the highway close to Glenwood.
Pronounced muggy-own, Mogollon is part ghost town and part quiet retreat, offering a historic jewel perched in the Mogollon Mountains of southern Carton County, just north of Grant County.
SILVER CITY GOLF COURSE
This 18-hole championship golf course is close to Historic Downtown, off Ridge Road. Take Highway 90 west from downtown less than one mile; turn left on Ridge Road, and look for the golf course entrance. For tee times and more information, call (575) 538-5041.
NEW MEXICO SCENIC BYWAYS TRAIL OF THE MOUNTAIN SPIRITS
The wonderful scenic byway of Trail of the Mountain Spirits starts in Silver City and winds more than 90 miles through the Gila Wilderness. This loop takes you through the heart of New Mexico’s real Old West, making it ideal for family driving and motorcycle touring alike.
PINOS ALTOS OPERA HOUSE
This cabaret-style theater starts the evening’s entertainment with an old-fashioned sing-along as audience members call out the number of their favorite songs. Complete with a full bar service and housed in the Opera House in the quaint mountain town of Pinos Altos.
LA CAPILLA HERITAGE PARK
Walk or drive south from Historic Downtown Silver City along Cooper Street or Arizona Street to visit La Capilla. Sitting atop the large hill directly to the south of downtown, its primary entrance is on Chihuahua Street.
The community-built park is at 1305 N. Grant, parallel to and one block west of Pope Street, one block north of 12th Street and a half-block south of Highway 180.
A terrific spot for kids and parents alike, Penny Park shows a community that works together to make good things happen. For kids, a full-filled shady acre of things to swing on, play with and run around; for parents, it’s a great introduction to life in the Silver City community.
Located in Downtown Silver City (look for the intersection of Pope and 12th Street), Gough Park is decorated with beautiful oak and pine trees, a collection of locals and tourist enjoying the scenery and a Gazebo placed right in the center geared to performances. Each year, events such as the Mimbres Region Arts Council Blues Festival, Silver City Grant County (SCGC) Chamber of Commerce Independent Day Celebrations, Copper County Car Show and many more utilize the park to host locals and tourists alike. When the festivities are taking place you’ll notice people of all ages taking pleasure in its grassy location. This is always a wonderful place to stop for a picnic lunch and enjoy the area’s four gentle seasons.
DARK SKIES AND STARRY NIGHTS ARE A STARGAZER’S DELIGHT
This area is heralded for having some of the clearest and darkest night skies in the nation, thanks to the vast wilderness of the Gila National Forest in Grant County’s backyard, the high elevation dry climate and rural communities.
Seasonal meteor showers, the Milky Way spanning horizon-to-horizon and other cosmic events can often be observed by the naked eye for amateur and professional astronomers alike.
Each year 339 (85 percent) of the bird species found in New Mexico can be spotted on the scenic byways of Grant County each year. The prime riparian habitat of the Gila River is a major migration corridor, and the diversity of grasslands and pine forests provide abundant opportunities for birders to add many western species to their list.
A small sampling of the varieties include: Painted Redstart, Montezuma Quail, Red-faced Warbler, Olive Warbler, Lucy’s Warbler, Common Black Hawk, Pinyon Jay, Steller’s Jay, American Dipper, Juniper and Bridled Titmouse and eight species of hummingbirds. Birding maps are available at the Visitors Center with directions to the best locations. Come and bird in the beauty, solitude and serenity of Grant County.